North Shore Rescue and West Vancouver police are hoping the public can help put to rest a missing persons case in the North Shore Mountains.
Roy Lee and Chun Lam went snowshoeing on Christmas Day but did not return. Rescue volunteers spent five days searching for them in blizzard-liked conditions but there was no sign of the pair and the search was suspended.
Now, as the snow melts and more hikers venture into the backcountry, NSR and West Vancouver police are asking the public to keep an eye out for signs of the pair. The two groups issued a joint release showing Lee and Lam in the clothes they were likely wearing on Dec. 25, including a bright orange jacket and yellow Marmot backpack. The last time one of their cellphones “pinged” a local tower, it put them north of Mount Strachan, near St. Mark’s off the Howe Sound Crest Trail.
“Every time we’re up there, we’re looking, whether we’re hiking in that area or we’re flying by,” said Mike Danks, North Shore Rescue team leader. “I think it’s important for people to know we don’t forget about these calls…. Our end goal is we just want closure, not only for the family but for our team as well.”
The going theory now is that Lee and Lam fell victim to a collapsing cornice, similar to the one that killed five hikers on Mount Harvey on April. 9. “We truly feel that, for these guys to just vanish into thin air, if you will, would be a very similar situation to Mount Harvey,” Danks said.
Although that would put them in very dangerous terrain, Danks said he believes they will eventually find the men’s remains. Similarly, there is still an open file for Debbie Blair, the 65-year-old Vancouver woman believed to have gotten lost near Black Mountain in September.
“I think the snowmelt is going to be the key here for us, for sure,” he said.
Much of the backcountry still is covered in snow and should be avoided without first checking the Avalanche.ca forecast and carrying avalanche gear, Danks said. Front-country trails, however, are opening up and already becoming a draw for inexperienced hikers.
Rescue volunteers had to hike out two out-of-towners who split off from a group of local hikers and wound up lost in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park on Saturday afternoon.
NSR received a request for help from North Vancouver RCMP around 5 p.m. when the two men in their 20s got a 911 call out with a weak cell signal. RCMP members were able to transfer the call to a North Shore Rescue search manager who determine their rough co-ordinates in a drainage area off Big Cedar Trail.
“They basically didn’t even know what mountain they were on, or what trail, or where they parked,” Danks said.
A field team entered the trail network from the top of Mountain Highway and, in heavy rains, made their way to the lost hikers, who were not prepared to stay the night.
Hikers should never split up from their group, Danks added.